Now that restaurants are following suit with the country and re-opening their doors for dine-in operations, we'd like to take a moment and discuss how restaurants have changed in 2021, and what we predict will be here for the long haul, versus all the temporary fixtures that we imagine will be leaving shortly (plexiglass dividers, anyone?)
Convenience is Key
Back in 2018, QSR Magazine predicted that grab-and-go would be the next big trend, and that was before anyone even imagined that the world would go through a pandemic. Convenience, coupled with a respectful amount of caution for transmission increased the desire and need for grab-and-go in a massive way during 2020 and 2021. Restaurants faced closures, and people flocked to essential grocery stores, grabbing what they could find in a rush. Having prepared food that they didn't have to go home and cook over a stove was a convenience, and stores and restaurants that added merchandisers to their offerings saw increased profit and happier guests. The next time you question the validity of grab-and-go, think back to how many times you gave in to buying a chocolate milk for your kid while standing in the takeout line at a coffee shop or bought a cold beverage at a retail location from the coolers.
Pizza delivery became a pillar for how restaurants handled the influx of phone calls and online ordering during lockdowns waves. In fact, your local pizza place may have profited during the pandemic. As restaurants stopped doing dine-in, takeout became vital and proved to be successful for many popular chains.
Texas Roadhouse pivoted and offered elaborate drive-thru options for takeout, and restaurant operators across the country began to beef up their online ordering capabilities or turned to popular new delivery apps like DoorDash or UberEats. Tables were pushed apart, and takeout areas were designated to support the foot traffic coming and going.
There is perceived safety in outdoor dining, and this trend is sure to stick around, especially as we head into the summer months and goose-down coats aren't a necessary accessory anymore to enjoy a drink on a patio with a small group of friends.